Senate to intel agencies: We don’t need to know how often you spy on Americans

Adam Serwer reports: There’s nothing like a debate over warrantless wiretapping to clarify how the two parties really feel about government. On Friday, the Senate voted to reauthorize the government’s warrantless surveillance program, with hawkish Democrats joining with Republicans to block every effort to curtail the government’s sweeping spying powers.

As the Senate debated the renewal of the government’s warrantless wiretapping powers on Thursday, Republicans who have accused President Barack Obama of covering up his involvement in the death of an American ambassador urged that his administration be given sweeping spying powers. Democrats who accused George W. Bush of shredding the Constitution with warrantless wiretapping four years ago sung a different tune this week, with the administration itself quietly urging passage of the surveillance bill with no changes, and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) accusing her Democratic colleagues of not understanding the threat of terrorism.

“There is a view by some that this country no longer needs to fear an attack,” Feinstein said.

So what were these drastic changes sought by Feinstein’s colleagues that would leave the United States open to annihilation by terrorists? They’re mostly attempts to find out exactly how the changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act actually work in practice. The most radical proposal, Senator Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) amendment requiring a warrant for the government to access any digital communications, had no chance of passing but clarified just how moderate the Democrats’ proposals were by comparison.

“It’s incredibly disappointing that such modest amendments that would have done nothing more than increase transparency and accountability failed to pass in the Senate,” said Michelle Richardson of the ACLU. [Continue reading...]

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